It’s Day Eight of Cleveland’s budget hearings.

Today, the following departments will present their budget proposals:

  • Department of Finance
  • Division of Taxation/CCA
  • Office of Budget and Management
  • Rainy Day Reserve Fund

Follow along with the hearings on Cleveland City Council’s YouTube channel.

Budget Terms to Know: Cleveland Department of Finance

Budget amounts for the departments and divisions presenting Friday:

-Department of Finance $28,822,014 for the entire department
-Department Administration $982,367
-Division of Accounts $2,630,383
-Division of Assessments and Licenses $5,287,764
-Division of Treasury $840,557
-Division of Purchases and Supplies $1,022,722
-Bureau of Internal Audit $1,234,425
-Division of Taxation/CCA $14,054,564
-Division of Risk Management $1,498,664
-Division of Printing and Reproduction $2,812,414
-Storeroom & Warehouse $608,262
-Office of Budget and Management $785,676
-Division of Financial Reporting and Control $1,903,409
-Division of Information Systems Services $13,421,723
-Rainy Day Reserve Fund $65,832,235

That’s a (General Fund budget hearings) wrap

Cleveland ended its General Fund budget hearings Friday afternoon after about 66 hours of digging into how Cleveland taxpayer money will be spent in 2023. What happens next? City Council will meet next week to discuss whether they will propose any changes — cuts or increases — to the balanced budget Mayor Justin Bibb presented to them. City Council President Blaine Griffin described the next steps.

Watch below or check out Cleveland Documenters guide to the budget process.

Questions about ‘enticements’ for economic development

Council Member Rebecca Maurer spent some time Friday afternoon questioning transfers of money that often happen at the end of the year for capital projects. What are those for? Finance department officials said they were used for economic development “enticements” including:

  • $3 million to Economic Development for general incentives to get business to move into the city
  • $2 million for the Cleveland Browns for repairs at the stadium
  • $750,000 upfront cash payment to Sherwin Williams as part of a creation agreement

“Fascinating that we give that to Sherwin Williams and almost nobody else,” Maurer said.

How much do the Browns pay in admission tax? That’s classified!

Civic boosters have long promoted the taxpayer-owned professional sports stadiums as economic engines in downtown Cleveland. On Friday morning, council members probed whether FirstEnergy Stadium – which the Browns use only a few times a year – actually benefits the city’s bottom line. 

Ward 13 Council Member Kris Harsh asked city finance officials to share how much the Browns hand over to the city in admission taxes levied on ticket sales. 

Finance Director Ahmed Abonamah and Commissioner of Assessments and Licenses Dedrick C. Stephens said they weren’t allowed to say. By law, individual taxpayer information is confidential – whether that taxpayer is Mrs. Jones down the street or the Haslam Sports Group. 

Harsh was flummoxed. 

“I feel a bubbling sense of outrage that we own a facility that we collect taxes on, and we are not allowed to know how much tax we collect on that facility,” Harsh said. “That seems entirely, entirely wrong.” 

Abonamah said he could disclose a different number: the aggregate total of all the revenue associated with games or events at the stadium. That’s the Browns’ lease payments, the admission tax and income taxes from employees and visiting teams, all lumped together. 

Ward 16 Council Member Brian Kazy asked how the city knows that the Browns are accurately reporting their ticket sales. Stephens said the city receives “rather extensive” monthly reports and conducts audits every three years. 

Then Kazy asked a hotter question – especially so, given that Browns lease negotiations are on the horizon. 

“Just in general, for what we pay in to what we get out, is our largest publicly owned facility profitable for the City of Cleveland?” Kazy asked. 

“Through the chair, it is not,” Abonamah replied.

Help with public records requests? Email Council Member Kris Harsh

As budget hearings kicked off Friday morning, Ward 13 Council Member Kris Harsh said he shared Mayor Justin Bibb’s concern about transparency and wanted to make sure news media were getting their public records requests in a timely manner. He encouraged folks to email him the reference number for the request and the date it was created. His email is .

Residents also can submit public records requests. Our Public Records are Power guide covers the process of submitting a records request in Cleveland and has tips for how to word requests.

Electronic tax filing, electronic contract signatures coming to Cleveland

Budget Terms to Know: Central Collection Agency

Modernizing city finance: Chief Financial Officer Ahmed Abonamah said the new e-file system for the city’s Central Collection Agency, which handles tax filings and payments from workers and businesses, is in its final stages. “I know as someone who has filed taxes in the past with CCA, I think it is a welcome development for anyone who has gone through that,” he said.

Chief Finance Officer Ahmed Abonomah explains advances in the city’s technology.

Also in the works:

  • A new electronic request for proposal process for companies and nonprofits that want to work with the city.
  • A new payroll system that will allow for electronic updates so that when a new union contract is approved, city staff doesn’t have to go down into a room in the basement of City Hall and manually tabulate the wage increases and retroactive pay.
  • A new system that will allow electronic deposits for vendors and fewer paper checks.
  • An upgraded system for electronic signatures on city contracts. The city currently has a system that often has officials walking contracts around the building for “blue ink” or “wet” signatures on contracts.


What would your General Fund budget choices look like?

Refund Cleveland created a simplified view of the mayor’s General Fund budget proposal as a way for residents think about how they would set budget priorities. See what Mayor Justin Bibb’s budget priorities are, then decide how you would spend taxpayer money. Check it out here.

Budget hearing recaps

Day 1: The budget hearings kicked off with Mayor Justin Bibb walking Cleveland City Council through his 2022 accomplishments. On Feb. 1, Bibb released his $1.95 billion budget estimate and spending proposals, which include nearly $711 million to cover the city’s basic operations.

Bibb’s plan to balance the city’s budget relies on eliminating more than 250 city jobs that are vacant, including in Public Safety, Public Works, and Building and Housing.

Council members had the chance to ask the administration questions and bring up priorities for the wards they represent. Council members expressed concern over issues of public safety, education and housing. They also probed Bibb on campaign promises such as East Side revitalization.

Council members have the final say in approving the budget.

Signal Cleveland’s Nick Castele noted that while Bibb’s campaign slogan was “Cleveland Can’t Wait,” the mayor struck a more cautious tone when presenting his second budget, telling council members that “change does take time.”

Find a recap of the discussion here.

Day 2: Council members spent the day digging into public safety. Staffing, recruitment and the management of nuisance animals such as groundhogs were high on the list of council members’ concerns.

Find a recap of the discussion here.

Council also heard Wednesday about a proposal to spend $1 million to create a stronger pipeline for young Cleveland residents interested in public safety careers. Recruitment has been a consistent issue in recent years in the city, and across the country. Signal Cleveland’s Stephanie Casanova has more on that plan.

Day 3: Council members focused on the staffing and recruitment of police officers as well as the use of technology to help solve and prevent crime. Mayor Justin Bibb proposed balancing the city’s budget, in part, by eliminated vacant positions and many of them are in the police department, which its lowest level of uniformed officers in decades. That had council members worried about increased overtime costs. Council also vetted a request for additional money from the new Community Police Commission, which was seated in December and began its oversight and policy work last month.

Find a recap of the discussion here.

Day 4: Council members heard from the municipal courts and its divisions, as well several other departments. In the morning, an audience protest disrupted housing court’s budget presentation demanding Judge Moná Scott, “Let Jeff Go!,” referring to a 60-year-old man Scott sent to jail for 90 days over housing violations. The protesters were removed from chambers and hearings proceeded. Council also heard from:

  • Office of Sustainability
  • Office of Urban Analytics
  • Office of Equal Opportunity
  • Department of Aging
  • Port Control

Find a recap of the discussion here.

Day 5: The departments of Law and Public Works presented their proposed budgets before City Council. Find a recap of that discussion here.

Day 6: Public health and the health of Cleveland’s housing stock were discussed with deeps dives into spending priorities for the Department of Public Health and the Building & Housing department. Find a recap of the discussion here.

Day 7: Council members questioned city’s pre-employment marijuana testing, how the city’s youth diversion program works and (again) about vacant positions being cut. Find a recap of that discussion here.

Signal Cleveland staff members Candice Wilder, Doug Breehl-Pitorak and Anastazia Vanisko contributed to this report.

Cleveland Documenters pays and trains people to cover public meetings where government officials discuss important issues and decide how to spend taxpayer money.

Government Reporter (he/him)
Nick joins us from the world of public radio. He has more than a decade experience covering politics and government in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. In 2021, he produced and hosted "After Jackson: Cleveland's Next Mayor," an Ideastream Public Media podcast on the Cleveland mayoral race. He has also covered breaking news, opioid lawsuits and elections nationally for NPR.